Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Useless British police

Not interested in shop-stealing

When a customer was spotted apparently stealing from his shop, Mark Ward knew the drill - apprehend the suspect, call the police and wait for help to arrive. But after a two-hour wait in which he made a total of four 999 calls, the locksmith had no option but to bundle the man into his van and hand him over personally at the local police station.

During the increasingly desperate calls, Mr Ward was told that officers were too busy to respond and was furious to be advised at one stage: 'You can let him go if you like.'

'The whole thing was ridiculous,' he said yesterday. 'What use are the police if they won't even respond to a 999 call? 'It makes you think the only way is to deal with crime yourself. I was worried that we would get done for holding this man against his will. 'We had to keep him in the shop for two hours and I thought maybe we'd get into trouble for it.'

Details of the case emerged on the day that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith unveiled ten new police 'pledges' to the public. These include a promise that burglary victims can expect a visit from police within 60 minutes - but only if they are upset or 'vulnerable'.

The fiasco began at 1pm on October 18 when Mr Ward's employee, Mario Sitek, spotted a customer allegedly slipping a $16 pair of pliers into his pocket. Mr Sitek chased and caught the man before frog marching him back to Anglia Locksmiths in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

Mr Ward, 41, who is married with three young children, dialled 999 and made the alleged shoplifter sit on a stool in the shop while he and two members of staff took turns to stand over him, guard the door and operate the till. He added: 'I got witnesses to come into the shop so they could tell police what happened but they had to leave after waiting for half an hour.'

At this point Mr Ward called 999 again and was assured his case was 'high priority' but that police in the area were busy. He rang again at 2pm and was finally given a crime number - but was told no one had yet been assigned to deal with his case. Worried about being arrested himself for false imprisonment, he contacted Cambridgeshire Police once more at 2.30pm and asked them what to do with the shoplifter. He claims he was told: 'It's up to you. You can let him go if you like.'

Mr Ward finally decided to take matters into his own hands. At 3pm, he pushed the man into the back of his Nissan Primastar van and drove him the half mile to Wisbech police station - only to find that no one there knew about the incident.

Mr Sitek, 27, who is originally from Poland, said: 'I can't believe we were waiting for more than two hours. 'We had so much hassle catching him and didn't get any help from the police. 'Where I come from the police would only take 15 minutes to arrive.'

The incident happened days after police advised shopkeepers in the area to be extra vigilant as shoplifting was on the increase. Cambridgeshire Police has since issued an apology and blamed the incident on a trainee call-taker who was working in the 999 control room. A spokesman said: 'Unfortunately, an error of judgment was made whilst prioritising several incidents at once. The retailer involved has already been spoken to by an inspector to explain what happened. We can only apologise for the circumstances.'

Raimonds Ludbarzs, 39, from Wisbech, has been charged with theft and is due to appear at Fenland Magistrates' Court today.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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